Managing Organic Waste If You Can’t Compost

Jan 21, 2021 | Reducing Waste

How can you manage organic waste if you can’t compost at home? We are fortunate to have a garden and space to deal with our organic waste on-site but what if you live in an apartment? There might be many reasons why managing organic waste is difficult because you can’t composting at home.

How we Deal with Organic Waste at Home

I wrote a blog post about how we have completely eliminated organic waste from our waste-to-landfill bin. When I say “eliminated”, it does depend on whether I can catch the kids in the act. I’m still training them! Diverting food waste from landfill is a sound environmental practice. Organic waste in landfill decomposes anaerobically which produces the potent greenhouse gas methane. Organic waste is generated in our garden and in our home. And by our animals. Briefly, this is how we deal with each of them.

Garden Waste

As far as garden waste is concerned, we signed up to the urban services ‘green bin’ program. Pretty much all weeding and some prunings go into our green bin. We don’t ‘hot compost’ so I don’t want the weed seeds in my compost. Larger twigs are a bit of a bother in the compost too. Grass clippings and leaves go into the compost along with ‘clean’ weeds, the straw and droppings from the chicken coop. That pretty much sorts out the garden waste.

Dog Waste

Dog waste is collected and placed in a dedicated dog waste composter. You can read about that in the linked post. I haven’t mentioned human waste. Obviously, most of it goes into our toilet to be dealt with off-site, shall we say. I will mention, however, that hair and nail clippings can be composted.

Image by Family Footprint Project

Food Waste

We have four strings to our food waste bow. The chickens, our two open compost bins, the worm farm and a bokashi bucket. We live on a suburban block with the time, space and inclination to deal with our food waste this way. Food waste is collected in the kitchen in three tubs, separating the waste as we cook. We have a tub for each of the worms, the chickens and the bokashi. We empty the contents of each tub as part of the after-dinner clean-up. If we have a large amount of green waste, say the leaves from a cauliflower, I put it aside and take it directly to the compost bins.

What I want to discuss in this post, however, is other options for managing your organic waste if you can’t compost at home for whatever reason.

Options for Food Waste When You Can’t Compost at Home

There are ways I’ve discussed before to reduce the amount of food waste that you need to deal with. Not creating the waste to begin with is the best first step. If you have excess edible food, consider donating it to a charity that distributes food to those who need it such as Foodbank or OzHarvest. There are often offers in our local Buy Nothing group of food items too.

Inevitably though, no matter how careful your planning and savvy your scrap prevention strategies, there is always some waste to dispose of. Diverting this away from landfill is preferable.

If you have a way to bury or use the product, small systems like bokashi buckets or small worm farms are an option. If these are not right for you, I’ve put together some more options that might be.

Communal Composting and Worm Farming

In places like apartment blocks, it is possible to create communal composting or worm farming facilities in a shared space. Generally, these are managed by someone or an interested group and the resulting products (compost, worm castings, worm ‘tea’) are either distributed between the residents or donated to local community gardens. Is something like this available or possible in your complex?

Also, look out for subscription services such as our local Capital Scraps Composting. This is a community-led composting program offering a collection service for a small fee.

A search for ‘compost collective’ in your local area may reveal initiatives for shared composing near you.

Compost collective collection by Capital Scraps
Image by Captial Scraps Composting

Share Waste

ShareWaste is a website that connects people who have food scraps to spare and those who can have space to compost or have chickens. Donors collect their food scraps and arrange to deliver them to a host. The website is searchable by postcode so you may find someone in your local area or on your commute who can take your food scrap bounty.

Local Community Gardens

Many areas, even high-density urban areas, now have community gardens where people without their own backyards can take a plot and get their hands into the Earth. Many of these gardens have composting systems and some accept food waste from the local community. If you do use a worm farm or bokashi bucket system, but don’t have anywhere to use or bury the product, this might also be a good option for you. Make some enquiries in your local area.

Local Government Collections

Some local government areas now include food waste in their curb-side collection. Usually, these councils provide a kitchen caddy with compostable liners to fill with your scraps and drop into your green waste bin. Check with your local council to see if this is happening in your area. If it isn’t, you might like to petition them to start. Diverting waste from landfill saves them money on ‘tip’ fees so it is a win-win.

Organic waste in landfill really is a significant problem for greenhouse gas emissions. If you are able to divert your food waste from landfill, it is a very positive step you can take for the environment. I hope these ideas have helped you consider what might work for your household to deal with organic waste if you can’t compost at home. Please do share your experience with dealing with food waste. I’d love to hear your tips.

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